Rahul Seth (Rahul Khanna) is a highly successful player in the computer industry and has enough money that he is chauffeured around in a limo and sees his family enshrined in a massive Toronto mansion. The hero of Bollywood/Hollywood is polite and well-spoken, and he dreams only of pleasing his long-dead father. Yet he has managed to attain black-sheep status in his traditional Indian family, all because he dates a white girl.
And he’s not dating just any white girl, but the so-called Britney Spears of Canada. He foolishly brings her to meet his mother and grandmother several weeks before his sister, Twinky, is to be married. Predictably, they hate her simply because she’s not Indian, and Rahul storms out of the house for about five minutes, which turns out to be all the time he can handle being away from his overbearing relatives.
Thus begins Bollywood/Hollywood, an Americanized, cross-cultural take on the popular movies churned out bythe Indian film industry. The modern-day prince’s life takes an important turn the following week, when poor Britn-eh suffers a terrible yoga accident on a trip to California, leaving him bereft — until the Old World matriarchy insists that he find an Indian girl to bring as a date to his sister’s wedding, or else the wedding will be called off.
Rahul responds to the pressure brought to bear by his family by doing what any normal guy would: he goes to the bar to get drunk. There he meets Sue (Lisa Ray), a girl of Spanish descent whom he discovers has a soft spot for Indian culture. Their shared love of Bollywood’s brightly hued musical melodramas is exceeded only by Sue’s affinity for money, as she agrees to pose as his Indian girlfriend for a few thousand dollars and a new wardrobe.
If this sounds like Pretty Woman meets Monsoon Wedding, that’s because it is, and seeing as both of those movies were wonderful the first time around, there’s little hope for Bollywood/Hollywood from the get-go.
Take away the brown skin and saris and you’re left with an inexpertly executed romantic comedy that pretends to be about culture clash but isn’t. At its core, the film is moderately entertaining but hardly original.
Writer/director Deepa Mehta tries her best to craft a charming narrative, but her attempts at inserting Bollywood-style musical numbers and staging in her movie fall flat, as does Rahul’s predicament. At no point does it look as if Rahul might actually break free of the social mores of his culture and live life for himself. That might have been a movie worth watching, and Bollywood/Hollywood isn’t it. That Rahul does end up happily ever after with a perfectly acceptable girl is to be expected, but his situation never seems as dire as his woeful expression would have us think.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.